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Interim OU President Joseph Harroz condemns racism following blackface incident

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Interim OU president Joseph Harroz speaks with SGA President Adran Gibbs May 17.

Interim OU President Joseph Harroz released a statement condemning racism following Sunday's tweets from OU's Black Emergency Response Team alerting the university community to a blackface incident.

According to the messages BERT tweeted, OU freshman Matt Robertiello posted a picture on his private Instagram story of himself in a black charcoal face mask with the caption "'another day, another case.'" According to the message, the caption could reference a January blackface incident in which two OU students withdrew from the university for their involvement in a blackface video that used a racial slur.

“Any member of the OU community who applies blackface is engaging in racism," Harroz wrote in the statement. "The impact it has on our community and all who strive for a diverse and inclusive community, is profound – it attacks our core values, it directly degrades African Americans, and it strikes at our very humanity. No one in our community can claim to be ignorant of the horrible history and meaning of blackface and its damaging effects."

Robertiello told The Daily via Instagram direct message that the posts were taken out of context. 

"That is me, wearing a charcoal face mask, while I was at home with my girlfriend," Robertiello said. "I did not post the picture with any intention of 'black face' as (they're) claiming I am. I feel as if I'm being framed as racist and I am not." 

Harroz wrote in the statement that the incident will not hinder the university's progress on diversity and inclusion.

"Upon assuming my role four months ago," Harroz wrote, "I have stated at every opportunity that diversity and inclusion is our institution’s number one priority. We are profoundly clear that OU is a place where racism is not welcome; where love and tolerance define us; and where we strive, and will help society, to be better. We are making important progress to be a leader among universities in diversity and inclusion, and this incident does nothing but further our resolve.”

Scott Kirker is a letters and Spanish senior and assistant news managing editor for The Daily. Previously he worked as summer editor-in-chief and as a news reporter covering research and administrative searches.

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